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Don Richardson’s paradigm, God embedded in the worlds cultures.
Is the ancient world filled with worship of the true god?
Did God plant the seeds of himself in all the cultures for them to know him?
Is His knowledge found in culture after culture throughout the various tribes in
Africa, Asia and China as Richardson claims?
When it comes to answering questions like these we must refer to the Bible and
not the philosophies of men or the current anthropological opinion.
The Bible is absolutely clear and consistent on its answer on this matter.
If you are squeamish to be challenged by the truth then stop reading, because
what you are about to read is going to turn your worldview upside down
(right-side up) if you accepted Don Richardson's premise. I say this because of
the importance to understand what the church has bought into.
evangelism that that concentrates on the persons individual need for the gospel,
as the Bible teaches, not starting with the ways of the culture that will modify
the message or the God of the message.
Relations Files keeps records on 420 different cultures. The Encyclopedia of
World Cultures has entries of over 1,500. We can assume there were less cultures
1,000 years ago and even less as we go further back in time.
Don Richardson is considered the father of cultural contextualization.
Contextualization means one proclaims the gospel as the fulfillment of the
beliefs held by a culture which he believes is found by how the apostles
proclaimed Christ. That this gospel was the ultimate expression of what the
philosophers sought on Mars Hill as Paul quoted their own poets ideas to them.
The Bible teaches the gospel is the fulfillment of Israel's hope and prophecy
When contextualization adjusts the gospel to accommodate an existing cultural
system, it is then a re-contextualization; which is not a good thing.
Richardson re-contextualized the religious myths to be like the Bible, he
started a movement that is now going forward with his disciple Daniel Kikawa.
Who is someone that we have found just makes things up, reinterpreting what the
religion means; removing the words from their actual context in both a cultures
traditions, and the Scripture. It makes me wonder how scholarly Richardson was
in his research, since he is on his Kikawa’s advisory board.
I know that Richardson is well respected by missionaries and their organizations
for his mission work and his story of the peace child. Certainly it is justified
to give him credit when he and his wife Carol and their seven-month-old baby
went to work among the Sawi tribe in Dutch New Guinea (1962). Richardson stayed
among the villagers to try and find a way for them to understand Jesus from the
Bible, but cultural barriers made this impossible. That is, until an certain
event brought clarity and he was able to relate Christ to the Sawi as a
tribal villages were constantly in battle, the Sawi people decided to make peace
with their enemies. Ceremonies took place where Richardson saw young children
being exchanged between opposing villages. One man in particular ran toward his
enemy's camp and literally gave his son to his hated foe. Observing this,
Richardson wrote: "if a man would actually give his own son to his enemies, that
man could be trusted!" This event came the analogy of God's sacrifice of his own
Son. He used this to explain to the Sawi and they began to understand the
teaching of the incarnation of Christ in the Gospel. (see Ruth tuckers
book “Eternity in Their Hearts” was his 1981 sequel to "Peace Child." Richardson
put together more than a dozen or so examples of missionary stories with him
introducing to the church a new paradigm; that missionaries needed to see
existing traditions and myths in native cultures as providential preparation for
the gospel. But, his premise presented in Eternity in their Hearts is not
credible, nor Biblical.
Recently I began to take a deeper look at what Richardson was claiming of God
seeding the cultures of mankind with redemptive analogies from thousand’s of
collected missionary stories often from 100 years ago or more. Today there are
those who have dug deeper into these cultures history. Several we will look at
as their research bring questions to Richardson’s conclusions.
Richardson proposes this ancient piecemeal knowledge of a monotheistic God
existing was sufficient; that general revelation is sufficient to worship God.
Many mission organizations embraced Richardsons missiology in the mid 1980s.
“…Scripture after Scripture has testified down through the centuries that our
God has not left Him', self without witness—even apart from the preaching of
the gospel (see for example, Acts 14:16-17 and Romans 1:19-20 and 2:14-15). That
witness—though different in kind and quality from the biblical witness—is still
a witness to Him!” (p.51 Eternity in Their Hearts)
Lets look at these scriptures that are the basis for their new paradigm to
First is the most used example: Rom.1: 20 -21 “For since the creation of the
world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things
that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without
excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor
were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts
observation of nature holds him accountable for knowing there is a God, nothing
more. Rom.1:20 has absolutely nothing to do with cultures in our modern day
except as a warning. You can't say they did know God in our modern time (since
Christ) because the Bible says they did not.
Paul said this 1950 years ago about those in his ancient past. How do we know
this? By its context, for Paul starts this off with Rom 1:18-19 “For the wrath
of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of
men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God
is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.”
When was this wrath revealed? In the flood. We know this by Biblical history.
The same Paul who wrote Rom.1 also wrote the nations (Gentiles) did not know
God, so Richardson is reinterpreting what Paul meant.
Using Rom 1:20 shows us how he takes scripture out of context. Because this is
only the beginning of Paul’s thought. It is where he ends up, that is, his last
word on the whole matter. Rom 1:21 They became futile in their thoughts, and
their foolish hearts were darkened. v.22 they became fools, v.23 changed the
glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man-- and
birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. v.24 Therefore God also gave
them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies
among themselves, v.25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped
and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
v.26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women
exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. v. 28 And even as they did
not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind,
to do those things which are not fitting? v. 32 who, knowing the righteous
judgment of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, not
only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
They intentionally left God, so whatever is said previously is not applicable to
who and what these cultures are today. Paul's statement is not about after
Christ but before, in the distant past, relating the punishment to those who do
the same today.
Rom.1 statement “although the knew God” Paul went on to say unequivocally the
Gentiles do not know God in several places. Not only is this an amateurish way
to introduce a culture to Jesus, it is not being honest about what Paul wrote.
This is why the Jews were perplexed at first that Gentiles could be saved. Few
in history responded to the God of Israel.
Again, You can’t say they did know God in our modern time when Paul said they
did not 1950 years ago about those in his ancient past. This is why they, the
disciples, were commanded to go out and give the gospel to those who were not
Jews, they did not know God.
Psalm 147:19-20 “He declares His word to Jacob, his statutes and His judgments
to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any nation; and as for His
judgments, they have not known them.”
Acts 14:16: “who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own
1 John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we
should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because
it DID NOT KNOW HIM.” According to the Bible the world was divided into two
people, Gentiles and Hebrews. God gave the Hebrews His ways, not the Gentiles.
When the gospel came through the Jews to be offered to the gentiles by way of
the new covenant they did not recognize God’s work because they did not know of
Eph.2:11-12: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth
and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that
done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were
separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the
covenants of the promise, WITHOUT HOPE AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD.”
The Bible teaches before the gospel one had to be joined with Israel to be in
covenant with God (this will be thoroughly explained later).
Richardson’s arguments of cultures before knowing God is inconsequential because
Paul says over and over, and the other apostles also say that the gentiles (non
Jews) did not know God; Richardson says, yes they did. So the question comes
down to who you are going to believe?
Don Richardson says, “Young men and women here (PRC) are learning that there are
things in every culture that are not from the evil one, they’re from God, things
that god has given people to serve as eye openers to help them understand their
need of Jesus. And these things are like compasses, cultural compasses that
point people to them.” (video: Principles of Redeeming Cultures school,
University of the Nations, Kona Hawaii)
Isn’t this what the gospel message was given for? Rom 10:14-15 “How then shall
they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in
Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And
how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are
the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good
It is the gospel that is the eye opener, probing into their culture to find
things of God is not the answer, because its not there.
2 Cor. 4:3-4 “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are
perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest
the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
One of the
ways people are blinded is by their cultures religion, spiritual beliefs.
Richardson says “we discover that the same gospel also fulfills the redemptive
components of a thousand other cultures as well! (p.60)
How? When I Jn 5:19 “the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
Satan, deceives the whole world (Rev. 12:9).
1 Cor. 1:21 “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom DID NOT
KNOW GOD, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save
those who believe.”
This Scripture can be applied to nearly everything Richardson says because it is
a definitive statement that summarizes the condition of the world challenging
Richardson “This kind of teaching has caused some Christians—including some
missionaries—to be very defensive if not actually offensive toward
non-Christian people. It has caused them to view Christian-like parallels in
other cultures as barriers to the gospel, rather than as thresholds with
"welcome!" written across them!”
I agree that there are points of contention and points of agreement that can be
used but we should not make the mistake of using these occasional similarities
as bridges, and say their God (their own supreme god) is the Father who sent the
Richardson method is to use their cultures religious beliefs which are not truth
to bring them to Christ. Where in the Bible does it teach to look into what God
gave in the culture? While there can be points made to show what is the truth
about God and their condition, it cannot be the focus nor a starting point
because God did not form these cultures nor put things in them, man did.
The cultures were in darkness, even those who lived among the Hebrews. Isa.
9:1-2 “…in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen
a great light”
Richardson tries to legitimize these cultures as having some lost knowledge
simply on the basis of them calling a god the Supreme God (which was a sky God).
Pointing out the various cultures included an "supreme God" or a "sky God," whom
transcended the pantheon. We are told by Richardson/ Kikawa that the ancient
natives believed in the spirits, along with other gods. But this Creator God
lived in the sky as His primary residence but was also present everywhere,
invisible to human eyes.
Richardson writes: And what does "sky-god" say at such times? Does he rant and
rave jealously against the God of Christianity as an encroaching foreign deity?
Does he urge his followers to fanatical rejection of the intruder's gospel? Far
from it! In hundreds of instances attested to by literally millions of folk
religionists worldwide, the Sky-God does exactly what El Elyon did through
Melchizedek. He cheerfully acknowledges the approaching messengers of Yahweh as
His messengers! He takes pains to make it very clear that He Himself is none
other than the very God those particular foreigners proclaim! (p.50)
So is the sky God of all these religions (hundreds of them) the God of Israel?
What packaged nonsense, and people actually believe this! This is one of the
most absurd assumptions I have ever heard and should be rejected because of what
the Bible says. This reveals his theology is unbiblical and is a dangerous
precedent (I will explain in detail later on why this is not possible).
Richardson interprets this silence of their god as approval (pragmatism), how
does anyone believe this? This non reaction is not approval but proof of non
existence according to the true God (here is a list of some of these sky gods).
This is outrageous that the church actually embraced this false philosophy.
Is not the gospel the power of God, all other gods are powerless before it.
There are places where people resisted and other people came to Christ (such as
He goes on
to say "One, gains an unmistakable impression that the Sky- God wanted to
communicate with people of various folk religions all the time, but for His own
mysterious reasons maintained a policy of restraint until the arrival of
Yahweh's testimony! This is surely a powerful exta-biblical evidence for the
authenticity of the Bible as revelation from the one true and universal God!
Evidence, where? He gives stories that are passed on not by what is written but
what is told to missionaries in the past.
He further states "If you belong to a tradition which has been teaching
Christians for centuries that the rest of the world sits in total darkness and
knows zilch about God, it becomes a little embarrassing to have to say, "We have
been wrong. In actual fact, more than 90 percent of this world's folk religions
acknowledge at least the existence of God. Some even anticipate His redeeming
concern for mankind."
does not sit in darkness? John 1:5 “And the light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness did not comprehend it.” John 3:20 “And this is the condemnation,
that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light
, because their deeds were evil.”
90% is a majority, its not half. Think about what he is saying.
Acknowledging God's existence makes you no longer an atheist, but Richardson
seems to equate this with far more. God who? Without revelation from the Holy
Spirit no one can know God. Since the gospel came nearly 2,000 years ago the
only way to know the Father and worship is through the Son; "No one can come to
Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44).
Are we so
impressed that he may have dug up buried religious treasure: that’s fools gold.
The people were not truly monotheistic in their practice. Nearly all Pagan
cultures had supreme gods, among their other gods, are we going to legitimize
them all according to his worldview? Even Egypt had a supreme Gods but Moses did
not say their god was his God, in fact he wrote ALL the gods of the nations are
not the same. Its not whether they believe in one God but whether he actually is
the true eternal God. As we will see this is not so.
People’s superficial view of Israel in history allowed this to be an accepted
theory. Not unlike Darwin's theory of evolution to those who do not believe
Genesis. The spiritually mature can see right through this scheme to legitimize
pagan cultures by a point of similarity, telling them your God is the Father who
sent the Son.
Richardson subtitled his first printing of his book in 1981 as “The Untold Story
of Christianity among Folk Religions of Ancient People.” Obviously someone saw
something wrong with the title of Christianity in the folk religions! So it was
changed in 1984 to “Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds
of Cultures Throughout the World,” making it more generic.
Many hundreds of cultures as the subtitle claimed were not in his book, they
were easily countable examples whose stories were stretched to prove his point
(and we will look at several of them later).
How can he say this, it’s guess work based on a flawed view of these cultures
once having God. Richardsons cliché of evidence of believing in the one true God
(like Israel) is a statement of unbiblical proportions, going directly against
the Bible, and the whole Word of God.
Don Richardson says:
"They began discovering what thousands of exploring Christian missionaries had
already discovered - that about 90% of the world's folk religions are permeated
with monotheistic presuppositions."
That is a immensely large claim that cannot be proven, especially by the Bible
(especially by the one scripture they use “ad nauseam,” Rom.1:20). This would be
like finding someone who believes in freedom without living it and then equating
them with believing in and practicing the US Constitution. Having a monotheistic
belief among the other beliefs does not mean it is accurate or true. But when
you lower the bar, and have the view that general revelation is sufficient, it
Richardson suggests we follow Paul's example and proclaim the Father of Jesus as
the "unknown God." As he gives further examples with Skrefsrud proclaiming Jesus
Christ as the Son of Thakur Jiu and others.
“Then Paul voiced a pronouncement that had waited six centuries for utterance:
Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you" (Acts
17:22-23). “Was the God whom Paul proclaimed really a foreign god as the
philosophers surmised? Not at all! By Paul's reasoning, Yahweh, the
Judeo-Christian God, was anticipated by Epimenides' altar. He was therefore a
God who had already intervened in the history of Athens. Surely He had a right
to have His name proclaimed there! But did Paul really understand the historical
background of that altar and the concept of an unknown god? There is evidence
that he did!” (p.22-23 Eternity in their Hearts)
Indeed he did but not in the way Richadson thinks. Richardson implies this altar
made to God was acceptable, that the Greeks knew God six centuries prior. First
of all theos is not a name, but a title, all the statues of gods were theos of
one kind or another, and Epimenides anticipated nothing. Paul did not assign a
name to this the unknown God, he did not call him Yahweh, lest he endorse the
altar to him.
From this reference quote of Epimenides' poetry Richardson makes a leap to Paul
leaving “Titus to strengthen churches on the island of Crete, Paul later wrote
instructions to guide Titus in his dealings with Cretans: "Even one of their own
prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' This
testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in
the faith" (Titus 1:12-13).
The words Paul quoted are from a poem ascribed to Epimenides (Encyclopaedia
Britannica, Micropaedia, 15th ed., vol. 3, p. 924). Notice also that Paul
called Epimenides "a prophet" The Greek word is propheetees, the same word Paul
commonly used for both Old and New Testament prophets. Surely Paul would not
have honored Epimenides with the title of prophet apart from knowledge of
Epimenides' character and deeds! (ibid.)
Richardson actually thinks Paul is saying Epimenides is a prophet a liken to
Israel's prophets. He called this philosopher their OWN prophet, not God’s. Paul
used a hyperbole which leaves one considering the quote, because one of their
own made this statement. So if Cretans are always liars, this being quoted from
a Cretian means he is included. Paul’s purpose is to make Titus aware of the
people he is working among as he appoints elders.
Lets pause and see who this so called prophet Epimenides actually is.
In his poem Minos addresses Zeus (Minos is the son of Zeus who was the leader of
the Greek pantheon of gods): They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
- The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idel bellies! But thou art not dead:
thou livest and abidest forever, For in thee we live and move and have our
Zeus is the
holy! Now we have the context and understand its not always what someone says
but what they do not say that matters. Paul was refuting them using their own
poets words to introduce the Greeks to the true God, Jesus Christ who actually
died and resurrected.
(note: Richardson includes this point of the poem, saying this was a personal
name for the almighty p.49-50, but goes on to say it is one of three variants of
the original Deos. "Greek theologians, tinkering through centuries with the
Almighty's personal name Zeus, gradually introduced meanings that were
inconsistent with the original concept. They decided, for example, to make Zeus
the offspring of two other beings—Kronus and Rhea") That far different from what
we find in Greek mythology.
quotes of Epimenides
Epimenides’ version of Typho: Typho entered the palace while Zeus was asleep;
and Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt.
Plutarch: Epimenides refuted the story that eagles or swans setting out from the
ends of the earth met in the middle at Delphi, the so-called Omphalos: There was
no Omphalos, either in the centre of the earth or of the sea. If any there be,
it is visible to the gods, not visible to mortals.”
Aristotle, Rhetoric 1418a; Epimenides gave his oracles not about the future, but
on things in the past which were obscure.
It is said Epimenides fell into a deep sleep in the Dictaean cave near Gnossus
where he lived, from which he awoke fifty-seven years after with the gift of
prophecy (Diogenes Laërtius I, 109-15). This is why Paul says he is their
was also honored as a god. A second cent. Greek historian noted a story about Epimenides' death, that Epimenides had tattoos on his skin. Tattooing was
reserved for slaves, others believe Epimenides belonged to a shamanic religion
from Central Asia, associated with shamanic initiation.
Now we understand why Richardson said the Judeo-Christian God, was anticipated
by Epimenides' altar. Richardson insinuates this Greek “prophet” is in the
category of the Hebrew prophets. So many have used Richardson's points not
knowing that Paul was using it against the philosophers on Mars hill.
Did anyone in the Bible use this method Richardson promotes in his book? No, not
even Paul on Mars Hill. Paul did not say the philosophers had a book they lost,
or they had knowledge of this God, or that he was NOT foreign to them. Paul
agreed, they did not know him; they did not know a thing about God. Clearly what
Richardson is saying on this is not the same thing Paul is saying.
All the Gods of the nations are idols according to God – we see this in
illustration when we come to Mars Hill in Acts 17:16. From the time of Babel men
changed the God of creation for worship of the created things in nature and of
their own hands.
There is nowhere in the Paul's discourse on Mars Hill where Paul implies that
Gentiles knew God. He did not begin with what they had but what they did not
have. Richardson says: Was the God whom Paul proclaimed really a foreign god as
the philosophers surmised? Not at all!
Acts 17:18-19 Epicurean and Stoic philosophers said “He seems to be a proclaimer
of foreign gods," because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.”
Men do not naturally call on or seek God, nor know Him. You cannot have a
relationship with God based on general revelation. The Greeks had sought many
gods and did not find God, nor were they interested in finding Him once Paul
told them about Him.
Paul is not turning them back to one of their gods they knew? Neither did he
appeal to their own culture as God-given? Paul is NOT saying that God was
presently working in their culture from the beginning. He proclaimed a God they
did not know - a foreign god. Paul refered to Scripture in his sermon and he
also used their own poets words against them, it was not a compliment but a
challenge that was offensive. Then he
used Bible based teachings to explain to those who knew nothing about the true
God. It was Biblically based message.
Paul made it clear that God is unknown not because He has not revealed Himself
to man, but because men have refused His existence as Rom.1 states. Paul sums it
up by stating in Acts 17:31: “because He has appointed a day on which He will
judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given
assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Notice their reaction in
the next verse (v.32), “And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead,
some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” They
There is no example in the Bible of what Richardson or his disciple Kikawa are
doing. Paul is pointing to a god they did NOT know, and he filled in the
details. God gave Israel the way to approach him -- God says throughout this
period the gentiles do not know him and so did the evangelist Paul who spoke to
them on Mars Hill.
But Richardson is making a corrlation in Acts 17 of their poet as a prophet in
Titus; Why? To have one consider the next points of discovery in his book, that
hundreds of cultures knew the God. But he is wrong.
Then we have Acts 14:16-17 to settle. "who in bygone generations allowed all
nations to walk in their own ways. "Nevertheless He did not leave Himself
without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful
seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness."
The witness is not a specific revelation of God but when read in context the
witness is giving the world their basic needs, not that God was involved in any
cultures development or ways. Their basic needs of rain to have an abundance of
This is not a point in favor of what Richardson is trying to present, and he
neglected the first portion of “all nations to walk in their own ways.” It tells
us God left them alone, to their own ways.
Now that we see how these Scriptures are taken out of their context the true
biblical view should be apparent. We are left to choose a view like shifting
sand, a worldly view, a humanistic cultural view or a biblical view.
Richardson used a selective way to pull scriptures out of context to validate
their view and the church accepted it and it changed its view on how to do
missions. Many missions and organizations have stopped using the Bible to
present truth and instead made culture their priority.
Richardson’s methodology was accompanied with his new theology and was quickly
accepted, embraced by larger mission organizations because they were having
difficulty making inroads to these people groups. As this spread, it made
Richardson one of the more sought after speakers on cultural mission work.
Should we accept this theological breakthrough he proposed, that God was already
present in hundreds of cultures (90% of folk religions) making them gospel
ready? IS THIS TRUE? No it is not, the bible says the Gentiles did not
Are you disturbed yet? We are just beginning.
pt2 The neglect of Israel in the new paradigm of
Melchizedek priest King factor- Are there other Melchizedeks?
pt.4 A lost book? All the
tribes that once had a book of God
The Myth making of Don Richardson - transforming myths into history
p.6 The Santal- Thakur Jiu